Thursday, March 10, 2011

Last Post & Summative Project

Wow, I cannot believe that our last day of classes in Education has come and gone, and although I'm glad we are near the end of our university experience, I'm going to miss all the great professors and classmates I've gotten to know over the last two years. I really want to thank Mike Nantais for all the opportunities he gave us this semester to listen to experts in the field of education that use ICT to their students advantage in the classroom. I also want to thank Mike for giving me an extension to get my summative project done. I hope that we can take these ideals we have formed throughout this class and see them come to fruition as we go about our careers in teaching.

For my summative project, I constructed a video using pics from Google Images to highlight a narration of my thoughts and summary of the Internet for Educators course. Enjoy at your own risk!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Dilemma

I didn't have the opportunity to hear Dr. Alec Couros at Westcast or through the Internet for Educators class. In both cases, I was away living the dream and playing volleyball for the BU Bobcats. This left me with a problem; how was I going to create a blog post based around the thoughts of a guy I've never met? Then I remembered, this course is about thinking in new ways using technology and the internet. I thought, how much information could I pull up on Dr. Couros through Google. Certainly there would be enough to blog about. My instincts proved correct and the first Google hit gave me what I needed, Alec's blog called open thinking. Through this online source, I was able to watch Alec's presentation on "Teaching & Learning in a Networked World" that he gave at the Quest conference in Richmond Hill, Ontario (see below). Watching this video, along with perusing through Alec's other blog posts has given me enough insight to comment on his thoughts and impact the way I see myself teaching my own students in a networked world.

The one quote that stuck out for me during this video presentation was "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Usually when people talk about this, they are talking about someone getting a job that they may not have deserved because they "knew" someone who had influence in the hiring process. However, the way Alec refers to this idea of "knowing" people is the importance of networking in building modern community. In our networked world, community remains important to learning and the sharing of ideas; however, what community looks like has changed drastically. For example, you may be closer to someone across the world than your own physical neighbour because of the interconnectivity of technology today. For future teachers like me, this means that I cannot assume that just because I physically meet with my students five times a week, that I am creating community. Because society is spending more time online creating community, teachers must set students up to connect with each other and the rest of the world for the purpose of collaboration to meet curricular outcomes. Instead, of viewing internet access as a potential distraction and a threat to student learning, teachers must view the online world as another realm and resource for students to connect with each other, create a network of learning, and ultimately become a community based on creating, combining, and sharing new ideas.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Math Essentials: An Online Resource

One of our "tech tasks" in Internet for Educators, is to sign up for a Web Based Course (WBC) with Manitoba Education, check it out, and then comment on its design, content, and how we would use it as a resource while teaching the course. Initially, before signing up for a course, I thought that this could really help me as a teacher come up with resources, lesson plans, and assessment ideas. Signing up for and navigating through the course Essential Mathematics 20S has confirmed this.

One of the biggest challenges I faced in my last student teaching placement was finding resources, and lesson plan and assessment ideas for the brand new grade 10 Essentials course I was teaching. Thinking back to that experience and after having the opportunity to navigate through the Essentials course I would suggest that every teacher should use these WBCs as a resource for themselves and their students. The setup of the online Essentials course is really easy to navigate and most internet literate teachers and students wouldn't need any navigation instructions. I really liked that the course was broken into modules that match up with how the course is broken into units in the MB curriculum. Each module is further broken down into short, chronologically arranged lessons that build upon each other. These lessons give definitions, offer explanations, and give examples for students to try. This would make it really easy for a teacher to find resources for any lesson he or she needed to teach. There are also assessments linked to each module and looking through them gave me a lot more ideas if I were to teach this course again.

The other huge benefit I see with using a WBC, beyond using it as a personal resource while preparing units and lessons, is as a teacher, you can get students to sign up for the course and use it themselves. There are often times that students expect teachers to be their first resource when they run into problems or have questions. Becoming this resource is something teachers need to avoid. Instead, teachers could refer students to the website and possibly even teach from the website so students know that where they can find the information they require. Students can refer to the online course outside of class as well, which can prove to be a huge advantage to motivating students to think math outside the classroom.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Scenario: Let's say you end up getting a phone call this spring from the superintenant of the school division you've always dreamed of working for. You knew the interview had gone well, and you were expecting this call. However, as he offers you the job, you remember one part of the interview that makes you sick to your stomach. As a graduate of Brandon University, you had the chance of taking the course Internet for Educators with Mike Nantais. It was this course that influenced you and got you thinking about how to implement your teaching philosophy and the value of reflection. Your whole teaching philosophy revolves around creating Personal Learning Networks for students and getting them to reflect and comment on each others learning experiences in an authentic way, through blogging. You remember in the interview that as you shared your idea of getting students to blog, there was a sense of apprehension in the room. You were then informed that the school division had a policy banning ALL social networking sites, including sites such as blogger, because of the inappropriate material posted by students in the past. As the superintendent waits for your response to the job offer, you wonder if you should keep looking for a division that is more suited to your vision of getting students to blog.

Solution: No fear, accept the job and introduce your new administration to edublogs, a blogging website designed with educators in mind. It is safe, reliable, student friendly, and usually allowed by most school filters where other blogging platforms are not. If your school division is a little more liberal on the filtering, edublogs allows for video embedding, Facebook and Twitter integration, and calendars. It also has great teacher support through email and phone. While it is free to open a blog, the only catch is that to open up all of the features, there is a small fee. However, if the school division is firm on filtering and protecting students from websites and online content that they deem harmful, this small investment will ensure students still get the learning benefits of blogging while still being protected.

Shareski's Ideas and Thoughts

One of our "tech tasks" in our Internet for Educators class involves finding an established edublogger (meaning someone in the education world that blogs), follow them, and then blog about why we have decided to follow the blog and some observations we have made along the way. After watching and blogging about the video "Teaching: The Moral Imperative" produced by Dean Shareski, a Digital Learning Consultant with the Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, SK, I decided to follow his blog entitled Ideas and Thoughts (

Shareski is a deep and innovative thinker when it comes to the world of educating today's kids. He sees the big picture, while at the same time he accepts the realities of the real world. For example, he wonders out loud (or in digital writing is more accurate) if all student learning has to be explicitly tied to learning outcomes. Perhaps teachers should get students to be creative and create something that brings them joy (he is specifically talking about a lip-synced video in his blog) that may not be totally curriculum based. The thing I love about his blog, as it is in this case, is he "wonders out loud". This means the comments (many coming from other education professionals) are just as important as the blog post itself. Instead of pushing his views, he brings forth innovative and creative thinking, and allows others to comment. I believe that through dialogue regarding education issues happening right now in the classroom, education reform will continue to move forward and students will benefit. My hope is that when I have my own classroom, I can open up my thoughts, issues, and experiences to the world in the same way and learn along with the rest of the education world, as Shareski is doing.

On the lighter side, I like this blog because of Shareski's sense of humour. See his post on Why parents should have Facebook accounts.

Personal ICT Devices in the Classroom

We all know that personal ICT devices (smartphones, tablets, and laptops) are becoming the rage. In class, we developed a presentation ranking the different types of devices against criteria outlining student learning. Scores and rankings are determined from our personal experience of using the devices and research (see articles in the presentation).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What Are You Going To Do?

"Tomorrow you are going to show up and be asked to teach French, Phys. Ed., or Math, something you are not familiar with. What are you going to do?" This was the opening question by Darren Kuropatwa (@dkuropatwa), the most recent presenter in our Internet for Educators class. Our first classroom response was looking it up on YouTube. Personally, my first thought was ask someone who knows. These responses prove a point, knowledge is not linear, it is networked. As a teacher, if knowledge was linear, we would have to learn as students learn in school today; building one concept upon another until we become experts. Instead, we collaborate with each other and experts to building a network of knowledge. If we learn this way, shouldn't we be teaching our students that way as well?

In "the system" of education that we are all familiar with today, collaboration is seen as cheating. We evaluate each student as an individual, while in real life it's more important that students know where to go to find information they need to know. To allow ALL our students to succeed individually, we as teachers adapt and modify the curriculum. Frankly, I think this is a cop-out and a way to "dumb down" the material. While students may get good grades and "succeed" at school with this mentality, I believe we are setting up our future society to fail. On top of this, I think it is ridiculous that we cheat our students the chance to teach each other and seek outside sources by calling collaboration cheating. Our job as teachers is to help students learn how to find the solution to a problem through collaboration. This is a skill that transfers to the real world.

As Darren mentioned in his presentation, changing the process of education starts with creating a classroom culture where making mistakes is the norm that everybody can learn from; this includes us as the teachers. Secondly, we must take a metacognitive approach to the classroom. This means students should spend more time evaluating given solutions and finding errors in previous works. Identifying and evaluating will allow students to become experts in the fields they are studying, with the end result being improving students' own products. Lastly, when in comes time for students to produce something meaningful to show their learning, they should be allowed to do so in collaboration with their peers. This product should incorporate a network of knowledge that students can be proud of. Publishing the product will reinforce this ownership and allow students to receive meaningful feedback from their peers, families, community, and the world. Using the internet as a tool for students to be creative in their learning products, will only increase their published work to the outside world, allow for greater networking of ideas, and increase feedback and metacognitive processes that will allow students to acquire skills crucial to their success.

These observations keep begging the question, what are you as an educator going to do? You know how you learn when you are faced with a difficult problem. Are you going to set up students for success by giving them meaningful and challenging problems, encouraging collaboration in search of the solutions, create a culture where mistakes are encouraged and evaluated, and present solutions through publishing student learning? Or, will you be a proponent of the present education system where we continue to adapt and modify the curriculum to allow for student success in the classroom, but set them up for failure in the real world.